Video games’ sporting role

Virtual reality: South Yorkshire-based Bromley Technologies' skeleton bob game, in use at Dinnington Comprehensive School, aims to enthuse pupils about science and technology, rather than teach them to compete
Virtual reality: South Yorkshire-based Bromley Technologies' skeleton bob game, in use at Dinnington Comprehensive School, aims to enthuse pupils about science and technology, rather than teach them to compete
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Virtual reality games should be used more in training elite athletes, according to research by Sheffield Hallam University, unveiled at a conference in Sri Lanka.

Hallam researchers evaluated sport’s use of ‘serious games’ – virtual reality games designed to solve real life problems, rather than to purely entertain.

They found that sports such as Formula 1 or cycling routinely use virtual reality games to aid training and develop strategies without ever going onto the track.

But, while there are plenty of video games focused on other elite sports, they are all aimed at entertainment and there is little use of gaming technology to help with coaching or strategy development.

Hallam’s Centre for Sports Engineering Research has tried to fill the gap by developing its own game that helps athletes to prepare for competition at different stadiums and develop their strategies.

Shanaka Senevirathne, from the University’s faculty of health and wellbeing, co-authored the report, Application of Serious Games to Sport, Health and Exercise, and presented at the conference in Sri Lanka’s commercial capital, Colombo.

He told delegates to the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology Research Symposium: “Use of interactive technology has grown hugely in the last decade and more and more work is being done on turning entertainment technology into serious applications.

“A number of industries, such as defence, education or scientific exploration, already use technology in this way.

“Our report found that there is a gap in the use of these serious games in elite sport and that they could be useful tools in the coaching and development of athletes.

“For an athlete preparing for a competition being able to see a venue before they compete there could provide them with valuable strategic information. Virtual reality games could also be a helpful psychological tool, allowing the athlete to become familiar with the environment to help them cope better with the pressures of competition.”